This is one of those cases that has really stayed with me ever since I first heard of it. I’ll be neck deep in then other cases that I want to talk about–or thinking about something else altogether–and then, when I have a moment of quiet, I’ll find myself thinking of a snowy night in Baltimore a quarter of a century ago. It’s not a terribly well-known case, and what attention it receives is largely thanks to the laudable efforts of the victim’s twin sister, Jenny Carrieri. This woman has been tenacious in making sure neither the general public or law enforcement forgets that, in the early morning hours of March 2nd, 1996, a young woman was murdered in front of several witnesses and that, twenty-four years later, we still don’t know who killed her or why.
On March 1st, 1996, Joann “Jody” LeCornu was twenty-three years old, studying geriatrics at Towson University while working part-time as a bank receptionist. She had grown up in Annapolis as one of four daughters, including Jenny, who was living in California at the time of Jody’s murder. Jody lived with her long-term boyfriend, Steven Dubin, and according to some sources they had another female housemate as well. On the last day of her life, Jody and Steve were not on the best of terms. There had been an argument between them the previous evening, which led Steve to ask her to stay away from their apartment the following night. It is not certain what the fight was about, but one source says that it might have been sparked by Jody’s preference for going out at night while her boyfriend preferred to stay at home. It is generally acknowledged that both Jody and her boyfriend had somewhat of a drinking problem, but they differed in their choice of venue. One interview with Jenny Carrieri also indicated Jody was quite friendly with the manager at her favorite hangout spot, and that Steve was not too keen on this.
Steve would later say that he had seen Jody before she left on the morning of March 1st, but that he was gone at a work function until about 12:30 am that night. (He worked as a school fundraiser, and was helping to supervise a school dance). Jody was not in the apartment when he returned, but he thought she had gone to stay with her parents in Annapolis for the night.
Jody, it seems, had other plans. After she finished her shift at work at approximately 5:30 pm, she went to hang out at the Mount Washington Tavern, the local watering hole where she was a regular and where she was friends with the manager. In many sources I have come across, it is implied that she met up with friends there, but specific individuals have never been mentioned. The tavern closed at 2:00 am, at which point the manager asked if Jody if she could give one of the employees a ride home. Jody agreed, and dropped the unnamed person off at his home. It was a cold, wintery night, and starting to snow.
After giving the employee a ride, Jody may have withdrawn cash from an ATM, then picked up a six-pack of beer at a convenience store. Then, she drove to a deserted parking lot not far from her home and stopped there. The parking lot was apparently in a commercial section of the city, as a Giant supermarket and a Boston Market were both located nearby. In fact, there were delivery workers outside of the supermarket who would witness much of what happened next. Jody had what must have been an earlier-model cell phone with her in her car, and she used it to make two phone calls. The first was to the Mount Washington Tavern to speak to the manager that she knew, but he was too busy to talk. Then she called a boyfriend of a former roommate and spoke for about two minutes, although the content of that conversation is unknown. Also unknown to me is if that phone number was one that she could have reached the former roommate at, which could indicate that the call had originally been for her and not the boyfriend.
At some point, a white BMW pulled into the parking lot behind Jody’s car, and a man got out and approached the driver’s side window. Jody then appeared to roll down her window and the two spoke together briefly before the man returned to his car. After this, there are only a few things known for certain. One is the man drew what turned out to be a .38 handgun and fired through Jody’s back windshield. The bullet went through the driver’s seat head rest and severed her spine. The other is that Jody drove out of the parking lot and crossed the 5-lane street to the lot adjacent to the supermarket, where it struck a curb and stopped. The man then followed her car in the BMW, parked, got out, walked up to her still open window, and removed Jody’s purse and cell phone from her car before going back to the BMW and driving away. After hearing the gunshot, one of the supermarket employees called 911. The time was now 3:41 am.
There are a lot of very strange things in this narrative, among them actions that were out of character for Jody. While she was described as a sweet and friendly person, her friends and family also knew her to be an anxious young woman, and she knew that Baltimore wasn’t exactly the safest place in the world. In fact, she had verbally expressed her uneasiness with living in the city to friends before. She didn’t typically hang out in strange places in the middle of the night, and she didn’t like to drive in snow. A manager at a restaurant where Jody had previously worked described her as a very cautious young woman, who always wanted someone to watch her walk out to her car.
The man seen outside Jody’s car was described as “African-American, stocky, and wearing a green camouflage jacket” and the details of his appearance essentially end there. Nothing identifying, and nothing indicating if he knew Jody or why he met up with her in an abandoned parking lot in the dead of night. Of course, there was also the white BMW he was driving, but that too seems to have led only to dead ends. It’s not even certain that he was driving his own car.
One question that has always loomed over this investigation is if Jody was shot and then drove away, or if she began to drive away before being shot. Very often, it has been reported that Jody was “miraculously” able to drive across the street after a bullet severed her spine. However, after doing more reading, I’m somewhat skeptical on this point. Most descriptions of the scene indicate that Jody’s death was, if not instantaneous, at least very quick. Also, severe spinal injuries aren’t known for allowing the victim much control over their bodily movements in the aftermath. People who survive broken spines very often end up with some degree of permanent paralysis as a result. It’s probably not medically impossible that she drove after sustaining a fatal injury, but I think it’s more likely that she began driving away before being struck by the bullet. If that is the case, it indicates that Jody either saw the man get his weapon or else something about their conversation made her sense that the situation had become dangerous.
Another question is exactly why the attacker shot Jody, and then proceeded to follow her. From now on, I’m going to just start calling Jody’s killer “Camo Man” after the jacket he is reported to have been wearing. Was he actually trying to kill her when he fired at her car, or just scare her? If she did in fact begin to drive away before he shot her, was her attempted flight the reason that he did? I will dig more deeply into some of these questions when I discuss the theories below, but I want to touch on the reasons that Camo Man would have followed Jody in each of these scenarios. If he intended to shoot her from the beginning, he likely followed her to make sure he killed her; if that wasn’t his initial intent, he may have just been fleeing the area before anyone came to investigate the gunshot. Then when he saw her car careen through the parking lot on the other side of the street, he realized he must have hit her, then followed to make sure she died. At that point he either completed the robbery he had intended, or simply seized the opportunity to take items of value from the car. I should point out that his efforts to make sure she couldn’t identify him do make more sense if she knew who he was. I will discuss that possibility in more detail too.
At this point, it should be noted that in addition to her alcohol issues, Jody had used harder drugs in the past, to the point where she had spent time in rehab as a teenager. Her autopsy would show an unspecified amount of alcohol in her system, but no hard drugs. Nevertheless, one theory that has emerged about the case is that Jody was seeking out drugs that night and that her murder was the result of a drug deal gone sour. The theory goes that she might have sought out the man she talked to on the phone as a means to buy the drugs, and that this person then sent the man in the white BMW to meet her. At that point, something happened that caused Camo Man to shoot at her car. It’s also been suggested that the man on the phone and Camo Man were one and the same, as it was purported that this man had a white Volvo that could have been mistaken for a BMW. The characteristically cryptic response from law enforcement was that this individual had been ruled out as Camo Man, as he “didn’t drive” at the time. I’m not sure why he “didn’t drive” or why he still owned a car if that was the case. I’m just working with what I’m given here.
I don’t think it’s outlandish to speculate that Jody and Camo Man might have met up in the parking lot for a drug purchase. It would have explained why Jody seemed to be expecting him, and the scene as described does seem consistent with some kind of illicit exchange. This still leaves the question about what went so wrong in the brief encounter to cause Camo Man to want to shoot Jody. The phrase “drug deal gone wrong” is tossed around so casually it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of drug deals do not end in murder. Violent scenarios absolutely can and do happen, but they represent a comparatively small number of drug deals, especially when the amount of money and drugs involved is relatively small. I’m a bit skeptical that Jody racked up a huge drug debt or issued any major threats during the few minutes she and Camo Man spoke to one another.
The only way that this theory makes much sense to me is if Jody had been buying drugs repeatedly, perhaps from the same dealer, and owed them money. Like so much in this case, this is certainly possible, but we have no real evidence that points in this direction. It could be that he gave her the drugs, she told him she would bring the money to him in his vehicle, and then she tried to drive away to avoid paying. However, I doubt most drug sellers are gullible enough to fall for something like this when she could just as easily give him the money on the spot through the car window. Another variant on this theory is that Camo Man initially showed up to sell her the drugs, but then decided to rob her instead. It’s also possible she said something in the conversation that made Camo Man think she was going to cause problems for him, but this too is speculative. I should add here that Jody’s sister has stated that if Jody had wanted drugs that night, she probably could have gotten them easily enough at the tavern she had been at earlier. Of course, this does not rule out the possibility that she decided she wanted drugs after she left or that she was unable to buy them at the tavern that night, and had to resort to other means.
Another theory that has been floated around on occasion is that Jody’s murder was connected to the fact that her father was a prosecutor who had worked on cases involving both drugs and violent offenses. This theory has never gained much traction, for what I think is mostly good reason. It seems unlikely that someone with a major beef with the prosecutor would recognize his daughter by randomly encountering her, so this type of crime would most likely involve someone methodically stalking and targeting Jody. Now, the problem with that idea is how inconsistent it is with Jody’s random movements that night. If someone had shot her outside her apartment or workplace, I could entertain the idea that someone set out to ambush her. But her murder took place after she had left work, spent several hours at the tavern, dropped someone off at their home, and then parked in an empty parking lot. If a hitman was following her through all this, he was nothing if not persistent.
Of course, it’s always possible that Jody was the victim of a crime of opportunity by a stranger. Perhaps someone drove by and saw her sitting alone in the parking lot and decided to take advantage of her vulnerability. There are three problems I have right off the bat. The first is that Jody’s family has stated that it is highly unlikely that the wary Jody would have rolled down her window to speak to a complete stranger, especially in the middle of the night. Secondly, it does not appear that Camo Man initially wanted to kill Jody. He approached her car, spoke to her for a few minutes, and only shot at her car after he returned to his own vehicle. This implies that he did not even have his weapon when he approached her window, and had to return to the BMW to retrieve it. Third and finally, this was an awfully impersonal murder for something that was supposed to be a “thrill kill.” He didn’t attempt to abduct Jody to take her to a place where he could have more control of the situation, or attempt to sexually assault her. Anything is possible, and I don’t claim any expertise in the subject, but generally speaking, most serial predators don’t shoot their victims once through the back window of their car, while standing several feet away.
There are so many details that have never been clarified by law enforcement or by anyone else. For instance, it’s part of the official record that Jody bought a six pack of beer before driving to the parking lot, but it’s uncertain if she ever drank any of the beer or if all the cans were still unopened in her car. It’s not certain if the beer was originally for her at all. Going back further, it’s never been clarified how it was even confirmed that she stopped at a store that night. Was she captured on video surveillance, or did the information come from a receipt in her car? The issue of surveillance footage of the crime scene is another vague point. The Giant store didn’t have working cameras at the time, but there was at least one camera at a nearby bank that would have had a view of the spot where Jody’s car ended up. Law enforcement has stated that the footage from this camera was too grainy for a clear view on account of the snow. Some sources state that there is footage of the scene that has never been publicly released, but whether this refers to the grainy bank footage or something else is similarly unclear.
I should include one key fact that may help explain some of the general opaqueness of the case. When Jody LeCornu drove across the road, she literally crossed the boundary between two police jurisdictions, meaning the murder had started on one side and ended on the other. Needless to say, this caused somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare and didn’t exactly help her family’s search for answers. Still, even today, Jenny Carrieri thinks that she and her family have been kept in the dark about any developments in the case. According to the law enforcement officials involved, the case is still considered active and they are withholding information to protect the investigation.
I think Jody either knew her killer from previous encounters or else she was someone she had arranged to meet and was expecting to see. The meeting may or may not have been connected to the phone calls she made prior to her death, and could also have been arranged hours or days ahead of time. I think that, working with the information we are given, the possibility that he was a person she randomly encountered is the least likely. It is possible, but far from certain, that drugs were involved, and that some kind of misunderstanding between the two parties resulted in Jody’s murder. Perhaps, as I alluded to earlier, one of them attempted to steal from the other, and this caused the situation to deteriorate.
This story really gets under my skin, because it seems really solvable. In fact, in terms of the raw information available, I would rate it as one of the more solvable cases that I’ve covered, even after all the years that have passed. There were witnesses. There were phone records. There was a bullet from a known type of gun. The fact that it’s still unsolved really bothers me, and will always bother me. I hope that by writing this I’ve at least done something to keep it from being forgotten.
Below are the links to the articles, podcast episodes, and videos I used in writing this article, and which I recommend for anyone seeking further information.
Slain TSU student was shot in back Robbery suspected as motive; man in white BMW sought
Family of murdered woman demands information
What Happened to Joanne LeCornu? Investigators Renew Efforts to Solve the Mysterious 1996 Murder of Blonde Twin
Woman posts three billboards inside Baltimore seeking help finding sister’s killer
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